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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining and Skillful History
This is a very entertaining and well-written account of Jesse Owens' track career culminating in his 4 gold medals at the notorious 1936 Olympics hosted in Berlin by the Nazi regime. Given Owens' iconic and historic importance, Schaap needs to exercise the skills of an historian in parsing through the evidence and sifting fact from legend. In this regard, Schaap does an...
Published on December 2, 2008 by CJA

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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't recommend this book
As a student at The Ohio State University, for two years I lived next door to a building named after Jesse Owens. He is considered a hero, and rightfully so. I have always been interested in getting to know more about his life, and thought this book would be a good start. I was wrong.

There are a lot of inconsistencies about Mr. Schaap's book. The most...
Published on February 1, 2010 by Gus


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining and Skillful History, December 2, 2008
By 
CJA "CJA" (Minneapolis, MN) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
This is a very entertaining and well-written account of Jesse Owens' track career culminating in his 4 gold medals at the notorious 1936 Olympics hosted in Berlin by the Nazi regime. Given Owens' iconic and historic importance, Schaap needs to exercise the skills of an historian in parsing through the evidence and sifting fact from legend. In this regard, Schaap does an excellent job.

In particular, Schaap dispels the myth of Hitler's supposed "snub" of Owens. What really happened is that on Day 1, Hitler congratulated only a select few Nordic athletes. The Olympic officials told Hitler that he had to congratulate everyone or no one at all. Hitler complied with this directive, so he had a good excuse for not meeting with Owens after his first victory on Day 2. Indeed, the evidence is that Hitler waved congratulations to Owens. Years later, Owens retracted this version to tell a more marketable "snub" story on the lecture circuit.

Schaap is also excellent at recounting the controversy regarding Marty Glickman and one other fellow American Jew left off the 4x100 relay team at the last minute. Legend has it that this was a craven effort by the Avery Brundage crew to appease Hitler. But Schaap tells the facts and it seems that, while this angle may have helped the strategy go through, the real reasons were twofold. First, Owens' celebrity was such that there was a desire to accommodate his expressed desire for a fourth medal. At the time, American runners were so dominant that the U.S. usually fielded a relay team that did not include the best four runners, but instead used the relay as a device for spreading medals around. But as the star of the Games, how could Owens be left off this event? And second, the Olympic track coach was head coach at U.S.C. and wanted to finagle a way to get his 2 U.S.C. runners on the relay team. Interestingly enough, the team used the old method to pick its 4x400 team and did not field the best 4 runners -- which resulted in Great Britain taking the Gold.

Also fascinating are Schaap's recounting of how Hitler warmed to the idea of the games, the difficuties experienced by Leni Riefenstahl in filming the games in what became "Olympia", and the ways in which the Nazis toned down the less savory aspects of their regime so as to score propaganda points.

Schaap is excellent in recounting the failed, but important, attempts made to boycott the 1936 games. The effort was defeated by an odd alliance among the far-right, fascist sympathizing Brundage crew; blacks and liberals who were offended by the hypocrisy of protesting the Nazi regime while tolerating Jim Crow at home; and the athletes themselves, whose ambition compelled them to take advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity to compete at the games.

Schaap admires Owens, whose dignity, work ethic, grace, and fundamental decency all come through in this book. But he also gives a portrayal of Owens' flaws. This includes his rather tepid pro forma protest of taking the place of another runner on the relay team, his rejection of the boycott efforts, his brief flings when he first achieved celebrity, and the bitterness of his later years when he was unable to cash in on his celebrity.

I would have liked to have seen more about Owens' later years, his fellow black rival (Metcalfe), and the great Euless Peacock who beat Owens four times in a row before he pulled a hamstring that caused him to sit out the Olympics. Why is it, for instance, that Metcalfe was able to parlay his silver medal and track notoriety into a career in law and politics?

Schaap's analysis of the Germans' approach to the games is excellent, but deficient in one important respect. He points out that the Games were obtained by the Weimar regime and that the Germans had a long history of poor Olympic performance. The pomp of the games, which included Hitler's innovations of the torch relay and heavy State subsidies into what has previously been just a another glorified track meet, caused the regime considerable reflected glory. But Schaap falls into the trap of the myth of Owens as defeating Hitler's racial theories. Yes, Owens' success was embarrassing, but what Schaap fails to point out is that the Germans absolutely killed the U.S. and the rest of the world in the overall medal count. There is no question that Germany won the 1936 Games, and the Olympics on the whole seemed to confirm rather than undercut Hitler's claims to having created a system that was superior to the rest of the world.

Schaap points out that Owens ran a world record 10.3 on the inside (muddiest) lane of an old fashioned cinder track. I'm old enough to have run on cinder tracks and to have experienced the thrill of shifting to a bouncy synthetic turf and seeing my times plummet. Owens' time under these conditions was amazing. Indeed, I looked up some Olympic records and found that with this time Owens would have won the Gold in 1956 and the Bronze in 1972 and 1980.

This is a very good book, though not sufficiently ambitious and broad in scope to merit 5 stars.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN HISTORIC SPORTS ICON, SPORT'S GREATEST HOUR , AND HITLER'S OLYMPICS, February 16, 2007
By 
RSProds "rbsprods" (Deep in the heart of Texas) - See all my reviews
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Sports writer and ESPN "Sports Center" anchor Jeremy Schaap reveals Jesse Owens as not just a beloved American 'sports icon', but also a towering figure on both the international sports and world history stages. The only athlete to be singled out in the world history books for his very notable international athletic achievements during the Olympic Games just prior to Hitler's scourging of Europe in the runup to World War II. Mr Schaap reveals new insights about Jesse Owens in Berlin. And the Jesse Owens/Lutz Long friendship and it's aftermath are truly moving. He is also the central figure in the greatest one-hour period of individual sports achievements, ever.

This book also the details who 'discovered' Jesse Owens, who helped him hone his God-given talents, a day-by-day detailing of the Berlin political and sports environment and Owens' 1936 Olympic triumphs, the AAU incident, what happened to Jesse Owens when he triumphantly returned from the 'Hitler Olympic Games' and how differently he was treated as opposed to today's self-possessed, rich athletes; what he did to earn money after track & field; and what he ultimately died from. Along the way, the author debunks one of the greatest myths in Olympic history and Owen's role in it. And, truth be told, the book details the racism of that period. This is a marvelous, well-written book by Jeremy Schaap that spotlights a singular athlete and human being: a man who 'wrote' a chapter of sports history that every true sports fan should know. Jesse Owens was the quintessential "amateur athlete" of the 20th Century. My Highest Recommendation!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JO42, December 24, 2009
By 
John Orlowski "big12ump" (Kansas City, Missouri United States) - See all my reviews
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Excellent book. Jeremy Schapp is a wonderful sports historian. Lots of good information about America, Europe, and the tenious situation that the world was facing in the midst of the depression and during the age of the rise of mnodern dictatorships. Great insights into the fascist leanings of Avery Brundage - a modern dictator, himself!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Gold!!!, March 25, 2007
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Mr. Schaap has sifted through the myth and legend of Jesse Owens and the Berlin Olympics and given us a compelling account of these extraordinary games. He presents a balanced account of the man and athlete Mr. Owens was, from his humble beginnings in Alabama to his record setting Olympic performance. He sets the tone early by recounting the legendary day of days in Ann Arbor when Mr. Owens achieved one of the greatest athletic accomplishments of all time by tying one and setting FOUR WORLD RECORDS in the span of one hour. He takes us through the politics of race and the olympics. He transports us back to a moment in time when the world was on the precipice of war. For such a small book this is A STUNNING ACHIEVEMENT!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously: a great read, and a totally new way to understand Jesse Owens, December 20, 2012
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This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
Really loved this. Jeremy Schaap has obviously spent his life around sports (I've seen him on ESPN hosting Outside the Lines a lot, and other thoughtful stuff), but he obviously got amazing access here. Interviews with people who knew Owens best, archival photos I haven't seen anywhere else, and so on. But what I llked about it most was the surprises -- so many myths around Owens's life, which I thought I knew, and which Schaap corrected. Schaap painted a picture of that strange moment with Hitler at the Olympics, for example, which itself was stunning to me, Plus, his description of racism at the time -- in Germany AND in the US -- helped me get clearer understanding of the way things were, and the way things still are, and even why. A sports story for people who love great stories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real close to Triumph, May 22, 2008
By 
William F. Mckee (Savannah, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
This is really a fine histury of the 1936 Olympics in addition to a review of Jesse Owens career leading to the Olympics. This should be required reading for all of the current sports writers and editors. it should be read especially by those that thought that Clay was even close to being the outstanding athlete of the century. It would be a five star book if the author hadn't inserted some of his personal biasis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest Olympic performances of all-time, January 12, 2013
This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
Jesse Owens is considered to be the greatest track star ever by many people. Certainly his performance in the 1936 Olympics (four gold medals) is upon the top Olympic moments. Owens refuted the Nazi's venomous theories with his awesome deeds.

Author Jeremy Schaap points out that in the 1930s, track and field was still a sport of the masses. The top runners and jumpers were on par with the biggest stars in baseball, boxing and football. In 1950, an Associated Press poll of the greatest athletes of the first part of the 20th century listed six track stars among the top 18 athletes, the most from any sport.

Owens commanded tremendous media attention while competing for Ohio State. In 1935, he set two world records and tied a third in one meet. Two-time Olympian Frank Wykoff said about Owens, "I never saw a man run with such ease." Owens was described as "running like a thoroughbred, effortless and emotionless."

For Owens, who was 22 and married, his entire future rode on the 1936 Olympics. It was either Olympic glory and a potential financial windfall or pumping gas. Yet, Owens' future was in jeopardy as there was serious talk of boycotting the 1936 Olympics, which were to be held in Berlin. It would be an obvious showcase for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. And, there were no guarantees that blacks and Jews would be able to compete or that they would not be discriminated against. Although no one knew it at the time, 1936 would truly be Owens' only shot at Olympic glory since the Olympics were not held in 1940 and 1944.

Schaap devotes nearly 50 pages to discussing the controversy that surrounded boycotting the Olympics. Although the NAACP voted against participating in the Olympics, Owens the rest of the top black trackmen such as Ralph Metcalfe, Eulace Peacock, Ben Johnson and Cornelius Johnson favored competing. They just wanted a chance to prove what they could do.

In the end, Schaap writes that if it was not for head of the Olympic Committee Avery Brundage's "pigheadedness, cunning, Germanophilia, anti-Semitism and deep-rooted bigotry, Jesse Owens would never have become an Olympic star."

Owens, who was favored to win three gold medals, was embraced by the Olympic crowd and the Germans, who constantly asked him for autographs. Owens did not disappoint, winning the 100, 200 and broad jump. Controversy, however, surrounded his fourth gold medal in the 4 x 100 relay. The projected four-man U.S. squad was altered, leaving off two Jews, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller. Another controversy concerned whether Hitler snubbed Owens or not. Owens originally said he didn't, while others thought he did. In later years, Owens changed his story and said Hitler did snub him. Interestingly, President FDR never congratulated Owens or sent him a telegram.

Despite his four gold medals and stirring performance in front of Hitler, Owens never experienced a financial windfall from the Olympics.

Schaap does an excellent job of presenting Owens' story leading up to the 1936 Olympics and the event, including the multitude of controversies. This is a well-written, face-paced book, one worth reading.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emerging Triumphant, November 4, 2007
Here we have a mostly victorious investigation into Jesse Owens' historic performance at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany. The story is hugely inspiring and all readers will become fans of Owens for both his athletic prowess and his personal qualities. Jeremy Schaap untangles the pervasive racial politics surrounding this historical episode, as both the Americans and Germans badly over-interpreted and exploited (in many different ways) the presence of Owens and his black teammates at the Olympic games that Hitler tried to turn into a showcase for his regime's hateful ideas of Aryan superiority. Schaap also untangles the legends of Hitler's apparent refusal to personally meet with Owens, which may have been a more complex situation than the simplistic racial snub that historians have assumed in the decades since.

But despite the inspiration offered by Owens and the exciting coverage of his many victories, this book suffers from some serious underlying problems. Most important is Schaap's use of invented dialogue and fanciful constructions of inner thoughts. The Notes section proves Schaap's diligent and frequent use of authentic sources for real historical events and occasional direct quotes, but citations are suspiciously rare for conversations between the persons covered and their supposed inner decision making. One especially worrisome example is the episode in which Owens decided not to show his coach a telegram he had received from the NAACP, in which Schaap gives no sources for Jesse's internal thoughts as presented in the book. Meanwhile, Schaap apparently couldn't decide if the book should be a biography of Owens or a historical account of the 1936 Olympics, leading to an inconsistent timeline, tiresome tangents into related events (like the petty parliamentary struggles surrounding an American movement to boycott the Games), and gaps in the thematic explorations of Owens' true influence on the issues of his day and on the future of sports. Regardless, Jesse Owens shines through for the reader, but Schaap's inability to avoid some of the weaknesses of standard sports reporting leaves the reader wanting more of the man who made history. [~doomsdayer520~]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, February 28, 2013
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This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
My 10 year old read it for a school book report and learned about Jesse Owens as well as the history of the time. He liked it quite a bit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! who knew how incredible this guy was. ..., July 12, 2014
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This review is from: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Paperback)
Wow! who knew how incredible this guy was. We seem to forget history and how important of a part it still plays in our lives.
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Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics
Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap (Paperback - February 5, 2008)
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